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Padma Lakshmi talks 'Top Chef' and shares a healthy, easy-to-freeze Italian soup

The "Top Chef" host showcases a filling and nutritious version of a soup inspired by her Italian travels.
/ Source: TODAY

As the host and executive producer of Bravo's "Top Chef," Padma Lakshmi certainly knows her way around kitchen — especially under pressure.

The mom, cookbook author and culinary expert joined TODAY on Thursday to show home cooks how to prepare an easy-to-freeze meal, while sharing tips for staying calm and eating well during any stressful situation.

One of Lakshmi's favorite dishes to make ahead in bulk is a deliciously hearty Italian vegetable soup known as ribollita. The soup is chock-full of fresh veggies and contains immune-boosting ingredients like spinach, lemon and garlic. Plus, it's easy to make in big batches and freeze for later.

Whether you're stuck at home or just working from home in the coming weeks, it's always smart to be prepared — especially when it comes to feeding the whole family.

"The first thing I would do, right now, before there is a panic, is start cooking," Lakshmi said. "Pick a Saturday or Sunday and involve the whole family in making huge batches of different dishes — turkey chili or green chili with white beans, things that are stew-y and freeze well."

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Lakshmi loves soups and stews because they're incredibly versatile and can last a long time. "Then pack them in quart containers so you can take out just what you need," she said.

Lakshmi typically buys plastic storage containers at restaurant supply stores in pint or quart sizes, but a freezer-safe glass container, like one made from Pyrex, works as well.

"This plan has two benefits," said Lakshmi. "It lessens anxiety — yes, you’ll have food to eat! — but it also allows you to cook with what’s fresh. You’re not stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables and hoping they don’t rot."

For those who want to stock their fridges and freezers with even more meals from a make-ahead day, there are plenty of freezer-friendly recipes that will easily feed the whole family for a week or two.

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